Founded in 1900 as Florida's first law school, Stetson University College of Law spent its first 54 years in DeLand. DeLand is home to the College of Law's parent institution, Stetson University, which was founded in 1883 and is Florida's first private university. In 1954, Stetson University moved the College of Law to its current Gulfport campus, which once housed a magnificent "Florida boom period" hotel known as the Rolyat.
Opened in January 1926, the Rolyat Hotel (Taylor spelled backwards) was built by "Handsome Jack" Taylor. It was a re-creation of a Spanish walled settlement of the feudal ages. The courtyard, or Plaza Mayor, featured a well and two large fountains, and was designed to be the meeting place for hotel guests. On opening night, the main fountain was filled with champagne. Antique, handmade, Mexican tiles line the two fountains and the well. Today, the Plaza Mayor is the stage for graduation each May.
Two towers serve as focal points for the Plaza. The plum-colored, circular tower is known as the Granary Tower, historically designed to be used in times of peace to store grain, and in war as a point of defense. The octagonal tower is a reproduction of the Golden Tower of Seville. Around the plaza's perimeter are former hotel guest rooms that now serve as dorm rooms, guest suites for visitors, and various administrative offices. A wide variety of trees adorn the plaza, including royal palms, sago palms, bamboo, and hibiscus. Among the many plants located in the plaza are birds of paradise, salvia, jasmine and plumbago.
The main entrance to the plaza is a reproduction of the entrance to the Old Alcantara Bridge in Toledo, Spain. Once adjacent to the hotel were stables and a golf course. Guests played a wide range of sports from tennis and croquet to Tarpon fishing. In advertisements, the Rolyat was to be "as fine as the exhaustive employment of brains and money can make it - a super combination hotel, home and club unique for beauty and charm in all this country." With its life cut short by the Great Depression, the Rolyat was open for only a few seasons. From 1932 until 1951, the hotel housed the Florida Military Academy.